Marvel has settled out of court with the Jack Kirby estate, ending a long legal battle that could have cost the Walt Disney Company and others “billions,” according to the Hollywood Reporter. The agreement comes just days before a U.S. Supreme Court conference was scheduled to discuss looking at the case. Kirby is a legend in the comic book industry, co-creating characters like Captain America and the Hulk.
“Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby's significant role in Marvel’s history," read a joint statement issued by Marvel and Kirby’s estate.
Marvel had successfully argued that Kirby’s work was done “for hire,” and therefore it owed no royalties, a decision that the estate appealed. The suit began when attorney Marc Toberoff, representing Kirby’s family, sent termination notices to Marvel as well as Fox, Sony and Universal Studios over their use of superheroes that Kirby had co-created (including Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man, Thor and others).
Marvel sought a court decision to invalidate the notices, and a judge and appeals court agreed. However, the Kirby estate and Toberoff requested a Supreme Court review, and a number of intellectual property experts agreed.
The terms of Marvel’s agreement with the Kirby family have not been released publicly, but Disney shareholders are likely breathing a collective sigh of relief. Kirby's characters continue to create revenues for the company from movies, action figures and other related merchandise.